A conservative group took credit for a barrage of anti-net neutrality comments posted on the U.S. Federal Communications Commission’s website this week, but it denied generating fake activism.
The Center for Individual Freedom said it did not use a bot to generate comments after raised questions about the legitimacy of the posts. Between Monday and early Wednesday afternoon, the FCC had received more than 128,000 comments duplicating the by CFIF.
Five people whose names and addresses are attached to the anti-net neutrality comments denied posting them when contacted by reporters and . At this point, it’s unclear how many of the 128,000 comments were legitimate and how many were fake, and no one has determined how any fake comments were generated.
Making a to a U.S. government agency is a crime, with a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
, where they can easily send comments to the FCC, although, through the URL, he didn’t provide specific language they should use. Oliver did recommend what people should write in their comments during his broadcast.
. A handful of racist comments targeted Pai’s Indian heritage.
The apparently fake comments using the CFIF language, as well as the 1,700 people who submitted comments as John Oliver, demonstrate a weakness in the FCC comment system, and perhaps, in mass comment campaigns. The FCC comment system requires a name, email address, and physical address, but makes no other attempt to determine if comments are legitimate, and it appears that some web activism campaigns have the same holes.
An FCC spokesman declined to comment on the agency’s comment system Wednesday.
As of late Wednesday, the FCC had received more than 733,000 comments on Pai’s proposal to scrap the 2-year-old net neutrality rules. The search functionality on the FCC’s comment site didn’t appear to be working for most of Wednesday afternoon.
During the FCC’s 2014-15 debate on net neutrality, it received more than 4 million public comments, a majority in support of strong regulations. Many of those comments were generated using web-based mass comment campaigns, however.
This story has been changed to add clarification in the eighth paragraph on John Oliver’s recommendations to people commenting to the FCC.